It’s impossible to describe this woman with one word. America’s Next Top Model Fan Favorite. Miss Black Virginia USA. Face of DiDomenico Design. Graphic Designer. TV and radio host. Public speaker. Creative Director of i-Fashion Magazine. And she says there is much more to come! Who is Midori Amae? Let’s find out.
DC: My first thing is, Midori, I’m not sure really how to describe you. I’ve listed several things. One, you’re America’s next top model…
MA: Fan favorite, did you see that? Yeah!
DC: You’re modeling, model coaching, doing runway. You’re also the face of DiDomenico Design.
MA: Exactly. Right, right.
DC: You’re current Miss Black Virginia…
MA: USA, right! *laughs*
DC: And you’re going to compete for the Miss Black USA?
MA: Exactly! In August.
DC: And I’ve just discovered that you do design work?
MA: *laughing* Yeah.
DC: So graphic designing…
MA: Yup. Graphic design. Everything digital that’s visual, I’m doing it.
DC: Okay. And lastly, TV, radio hosting…
MA: Yeah! So I have a podcast, I’ve hosted TV. I really do a little bit of everything.
DC: I like that.
MA: It’s ridiculous. But I felt I kind of had to. At some point I was going to get bored.
DC: You’d need something new?
MA: If I was just an accountant like my dad I’d be kind of bored.
DC: Well that might be where the brains come from?
DC: So you do that, you’re doing hosting, and you do speaking opportunities too. There might be even more. And we’ll find out, and I hope to cover that in some detail –
MA: Definitely. Sure, sure!
DC: I want to get more about your background. You can go back as far as you want, to the day you were born, or whenever.
MA: *laughs* To my first memory, as a young lass?
DC: Yes, like some people are born overseas and move here. From when you were born to your basic family upbringing.
MA: So I was born in Philadelphia, and my mom moved us to Wisconsin, and I spent seven years there. Then I hopped around to Ohio, back to Philadelphia, down to Birmingham, Alabama, and then up to Virginia. So I was in Birmingham for about three years. My family is back down in Birmingham now, actually. So I’ll be going back down there to visit them sometime soon. Yeah, so they’re there. We’re really nomadic. My dad was an accountant, or he still is. Whether he was auditing a bank or, you know, just doing regular accounting things. We just moved all the time, so I felt like a military brat, because I was always having different friends. And I feel like that’s why I can’t have just one profession. Because I think if I have one thing for the rest of my life, I’ll be bored. I really will just sit there and say, “Okay, so what’s next?” I’m used to changing my life, my surroundings, every three to four years. So it’s like, okay well it’s been four years now, what do I do? What’s next? What’s coming up? That’s why I think I take on so many projects because I get to really play out, act out all of the different sides of me, all of the different things I want to do. And I don’t want any to falter, any to feel like I didn’t get to do it. So I do everything, I just do it all. And everything has a specific time, and I think that’s just how my life is kind of.
DC: It’s amazing how you fit it in, and it works.
MA: Yeah! It just works. But I think it’s because of that nomadic, you know, sort of lifestyle that we had; we just up three years, four years, five years, get up and leave.
DC: Okay, so was Virginia the last stop?
MA: Yeah, Virginia, that’s my last stop.
DC: Where you ended up doing high school and everything?
MA: Yes, I went to high school here, and I went to college at Virginia Tech, and then while I was away at school my parents went off to Chicago and then back down to Alabama. They kept moving and they will keep moving.
MA: I’m tired. I can’t keep up. I’m done.
DC: Then you chose Virginia as your home.
MA: I did.
DC: That’s what I was going to ask you: with all of your moving around, if somebody said, “Where are you from?”
DC: You’re Virginian.
MA: I am. I think that Virginia has made such an impression on me that I am a Virginia girl, like, I’m a NOVA girl now. It’s just, it is what it is.
DC: Do you see yourself staying in Virginia?
MA: Yeah. I’ll be here. I’ll be here for a little while for sure. There’s something about the different regions of Virginia that gives me a little spice; if I want to go camping, if I want to go get historic, I want to go to a beach and like relax, there’s a lot in Virginia where I feel like I can do so much and have so many different regions. And we’re close to a lot of different things, a lot of different states. I can go to Charlotte, not too far, even Atlanta isn’t a bad flight. New York, that’s a bus trip. I take that all the time. So this is a nice area. I do want to get to LA. That will be the, probably be the last – one of the last, like the main stop. The main stop is LA. And I’ll spend the majority of my time there, I’m thinking, if I like it the way I think I will and the way other people say that I will, then I think I’ll be there for a long time. I’m also like a scaredy-cat so I’m afraid to make that, like, huge leap across the country. But if I have something planned – I like to plan it out a little bit before I go. But I’m going. Time is ticking, and I’m waiting. I’m waiting.
DC: So your dad’s an accountant. So it’s him, your mom, and any brother or sister?
MA: I have one sister.
DC: Older or younger?
MA: She’s younger. She’s eleven years younger than me.
DC: So you’re big sister?
MA: I am big sis! You know? I wear a lot of hats, big sis is my favorite.
DC: The responsible one.
MA: Yes! That’s probably my favorite thing, being a big sister. I think it’s really cool. I always wanted a big sister when I was younger. And I was – I used to live like the fairytale life in my head. Like, my sister’s going to come back from college one day, off somewhere far, and you know, just be there, and just love on me. And I was like no, I got to be that person for my little girl, so that’s my kid, that’s my pumpkin.
DC: Was your mom a stay-at-home mom?
MA: Mhm. Yup, yup.
DC: Your dad was doing the accounting and your mom was there to take care..
MA: Yeah, so when my mom had my sister that’s when she started staying home. And it was cute. I remember one Christmas when she was pregnant with my sister. And she came in, you know, teachers and parents come in and they help out for holidays and stuff? She comes in, huge belly, making cookies and stuff, and I’m like, “Yeah my sister’s in there! You guys! There’s a kid in there! It’s mine!” It was probably in, like, the fifth grade. But I was like, “Yeah that’s my sister!”
DC: I’m wondering how many parents had to explain that?
MA: OH, right. *laughs*
DC: *laughing* How many parents did you put on the spot that night?
MA: Midori just wrecked everyone’s birds and the bees conversation. Whatever! Yeah, that’s how I am sometimes. Like, “What, I came out of my mom? What’s that? I thought Mom was the stork, does that mean she’s a stork too?” “No no no kid, no, let’s have a chat.”
DC: So aside from your traveling around, nomadic lifestyle with your family, did you think anything else came from that? Other than your willingness and being open to new things and possibilities, do you think it shaped you in other ways?
MA: Sure. It definitely did. I like to call myself well-rounded because I feel like I’ve experienced so many communities, cultures, people, regions…states, obviously. But I feel like I’ve been able to touch on a lot of different parts of the United States, you know, except for this West Coast thing. But, I really enjoyed the time that I spent learning and people-watching. That’s really big for me; I love to watch people. It also helps me because modeling is acting, you know, and acting is acting. So I get to pick up little nuances from little people. I remember when I moved down to the south I picked up an accent within months. It was a whirl. Like you couldn’t have told me I wasn’t a girl raised in the south, grits –
DC: Southern Belle?
MA: Southern Belle, and it was so nice of y’all, ma’am, no sir and yes sir, all that, and I picked it up within months. I mean, it’s nothing. When I’m around somebody I instantly pick up little mannerisms. If I will myself into it, right? *laughs* If I don’t fight it. But I see that, I think that’s the actor in me. So every time I go somewhere new I pick up something, and I collect it. I put it in my memory bank, and I kind of keep moving, and I’ll pull it out when I need to and I’ll call on it, you know? I really like it. I think it makes me a lot more, I think, open to other ideas, other people, other perspectives. And it does help when it comes to, say, you have to act like this person or act like this or this is the situation we’re putting you in, go. You know? “You’re on” sort of thing. Definitely makes me cool under pressure. When it comes to hosting, when you’ve got a guest who might ask a funny question or something random, or if it’s completely quiet and everyone’s just like looking at you ‘cause no one’s on stage, you get the mic and you’re like, “Alright, let’s go!” I feel like it makes me adaptable in every sort of situation.
DC: So there’s no situation that you’re uncomfortable with – you just jump in?
MA: Man, throw it at me. Yeah, yeah. I feel like I could at least hold my own for five, ten minutes. After that you might need to save me! *laughing* I’ll be like, “Uhh, you guys…”
DC: Going back with the traveling around, you think there was anything you found difficult? Anything that was just tough, being a girl, young lady growing up and traveling around?
MA: I feel like goodbyes are really hard for me. And meeting people is cool after I kind of get through the whole nervousness or whatever because I’m slightly introverted. I’m very much introverted on the inside.
DC: You can’t tell.
MA: Right, you’d never know, because when I have to be outgoing I’ve learned to be outgoing. I can handle it, and it’s like drop of a dime I’m good. When I’d like to be by myself, I really like to be by myself. And goodbyes are a really hard thing for me. I don’t know why how that, you know, kind of, it makes me want to go back into my shell. Like I don’t want to leave my house because that means I don’t have to say goodbye, like I don’t have to actually, like, process leaving. And it was hard; I remember having one really hard goodbye with one of my closest friends. I mean, of course now we’re not friends anymore and that shows just you how life is and how emotional you are when you’re younger. But I was so amped up about leaving, I think it was Pennsylvania, and I – no it was Ohio to Pennsylvania, I remember I was driving and there was music playing on the background. And music is an emotional trigger for me. I live my life through music whether it’s happy, sad, you know, Spotify has me covered. But there was a song playing and it was like, “Don’t leave me girl.” It was some old school like, really good song. And I remember just sitting there crying, I left my best friend’s house, and I was just like, “Oh my god, I don’t want to do any of this.” And it was one of the realest moments I’ve had. I don’t keep up with a lot of people from my past, but there a few that I’ve actually found on Facebook and stuff, and that’s been really awesome. But goodbyes are hard. They are. Those are probably the worst part for me.
DC: Honestly, there’s a lot of people I’ve met while traveling and they always said that’s the worst thing. As you said, if you moved to a new place, you meet new people and made new friends. The bad part is, if you’re traveling, that either they’re going to leave or you’re going to leave.
DC: And you know that ahead of time, and it’s difficult, but I could see that.
MA: I felt that in college once. Once I graduated in 2013 I stayed for another two years. I stayed in that area. I was working for my university, and I came up to D.C. for a little bit then came back down and got another job down there. And the first goodbye, with me coming to D.C., oh that was nothing. I was like, “Oh, we’re going to have a little, you know, drinks session with some good beer and play pool.” The second time, when I actually left and I said, “You guys, I’m taking everything. Like, we’re going,” that was hard. Oh my goodness it was hard. But I had to realize like at one point I stopped being a Virginia Tech student and I started to become a Blacksburg, you know, sort of community member? Because I realized everyone here is just passing through. And that’s hard for me. Because I don’t like goodbyes. So I decided to become more involved with the community in Blacksburg and that’s why I feel like Blacksburg is such a home away from home for me. I was so involved with local government, community people, you know, trying to, you know, help better businesses and doing all sorts of awesome things there where I really feel like, “I can be the sweetheart of Blacksburg!” You know, I really took Blacksburg on as my own little home. And so now I don’t ever feel like I’m silly at Blacksburg. I can always go back there, and I’ve made friends who live there, who, growing up there, are keeping their children there, and I kind of stay away from the college kids who are only there for a few more years and are leaving. So that was how I tried to combat my little *laughs* “I don’t want to say goodbye!”
DC: There was something you mentioned, something about you saying internally you’re an introvert. So would that mean if you had a quiet Friday night when you’re not busy doing any of these activities, are you the one that you’d rather be at home reading a book –
MA: Oh my gosh.
DC: – watching a movie instead of going out?
MA: I fell asleep – I fell asleep last weekend, I promise you, like eleven o’clock and I had a book in my hand, glasses on, and a glass of wine by my bed. To me that was on top. I was like, yes, I finally got to the last part of this book! This book’s amazing! And I’m like, Midori, you used to be so cool, what happened to you? But I just realized now that I’ve moved into a place where I’m by myself, and I don’t have to see anyone else and I don’t have to be on, or have to account for anyone else’s, you know, behavior or anything, I can just do what I want to do. And when I found out that I could do what I want to do, I really just wanted to be alone. Or just be calm and just quiet, because everything else in my life is so helter-skelter. The lifestyle, you know, is so on all the time. I’m moving, I’m shaking. My life is very different; my life is very quiet.
DC: Your actual life is escapism from your day-to-day issues?
MA: Exactly. And I love it, yeah.
DC: You just move from place to place to place to place to place and then you just go back and read your book.
DC: I like that. That’s a good life.
MA: Yeah, it’s not bad. And I’m happy it turned out that way and I found myself through those kind of channels. Like moving away from – moving out of someone else’s place and just having my own place, that’s really where I figured that out. It was so weird walking around my house and no one else was there. Waking up and no one’s going to come in my house and make tea or anything, like I’m living by myself in this one door in, one door out. It’s pretty – it’s pretty cool. It’s pretty great. And they always say, you know, you don’t know who you are until you are by yourself. Until you are with yourself, you know? And that’s when I really started to learn to love myself, and just look at myself differently. Like, oh my gosh, you’ve got all these great ideas and characteristics. And that’s when I made that pledge to think more positively and change my whole entire outcome of the situation, change the outcomes, you know, if I could, just by changing my perspective on things. And that’s when I was said, “You know what? We’re going to kill this. We’re going to slay this, we’re going to do everything we need to do.” And, you know, we’re going to adult.
DC: *laughing* “We’re going to adult?”
MA: *laughing* We’re going to adult this!
DC: I think that being alone part, you make a good point just because as you said you don’t know who you are until then. But there’s a lot of people I think who are – I hate to say afraid – but don’t like to be by themselves or with their own thoughts. So they stay busy with so many other things when being by themselves might be the best way to find themselves.
MA: I had to get over it too. I don’t like being alone. I’ll put it this way: I don’t like being lonely. I love being alone, I don’t like being lonely. A prime example: even though I was with my friend today, I felt lonely. I didn’t know anyone else here, so when she’s doing her thing and killin’ it, normally I’m in the crowd dancing, but I couldn’t get my groove. I couldn’t – I couldn’t find my way in. And I was just like, “Oh my gosh I feel really lonely.” And there’s a room full of 80, a hundred people here and I’m like, “I feel really lonely like, oh my gosh.” I just sat at the table, I was really, really shy. It was just hilarious to me. And they just announced, “Oh we have Ms. Black Virginia here!” I’m like, “Hi guys…please don’t look at me too long, it’s really awkward. I’m just going to sit right here like I don’t…um, I’m sorry.” And I feel like such a dork but it is what it is. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable still. Sometimes I, you know, get a little jittery. And then I find my calm, I find my comfort level and I just jump right in, I jump in, I’m good.
DC: Good! Jumping back to your traveling around, your family, different places, different people…what were some of the activities you were interested in?
MA: Sure. Yeah, so in high school I was in local government. That was kind of my biggest thing. My parents really pushed me at one point. I wanted to do it, my parents pushed me to do it, and then I fell in love with doing it. So that’s for four years – it was some, some span of that. But before that my first love has always been dance. I’ve always been a dancer.
DC: Dance? Like starting with ballet, or…? How’d you get into it?
MA: It was a little bit of jazz, tap, a little bit of ballet – more like contemporary – then a little bit of hip hop when I went to college. I didn’t want to dance for my school and do the collegiate dancing ‘cause I thought it was too cheerlead-y, too BS. And then I realized I missed it so much, and I’m like, “oh no! I haven’t been dancing for like four years now.” So now I think it’s been five years that I’ve been out of dance completely. In college I had a hip hop dance group, in high school I had like a reggaeton, SoCal, sort of reggae hip hop, you know, group that we were doing. In middle school I had a dance group, I was dancing with outside of my middle school, you know, cheering for football and basketball games and stuff, so I love, love, love dance. And it’s something that I do want to tap into again. I want to go back.
DC: So you said that it’s your first love but it is something you don’t really have the time for?
MA: I don’t have time for. And if I were to make time for it, a lot of things would have to change. And therefore I don’t think that I can – I’d like to either professionally dance, like dance for a team, or do some very casual, I can go once every two weeks sort of thing. I can’t have an in between. Either we’re all in and we’re changing schedules and we’re cutting things out and we’re making time for this as a thing, or I’m just – I’ll do it casually when I have the time.
DC: And that’s one of the things you’d do in your free time, and enjoy for yourself?
MA: Exactly. Because I would train, I would practice, I would just, you know, I would not be happy for it. But that chunk of the pie takes up a lot more than just showing up that day and dancing. There’s rehearsals, and after rehearsals there’s strength and conditioning. You’ve got to get yourself together to be able to just turn it on at that game.
DC: I don’t know if I’d say the word “competitive” – if you’re naturally competitive or maybe you just want to be your best. If you’re going to get into something, “Well I want to do it all the way.”
MA: Completely, yeah. I definitely – I pick up those Type A personalities, I’m kind of lazy, I like to sleep a little bit; that’s my just natural lethargic self. *laughs* I don’t know how it happened, but the Type A comes in really with dancing. This is the one thing where I’ve always felt like I make time for it, I schedule it, I do extra-curriculars, I research it. It’s almost – it’s almost as passion driven as design work. Like design work, I research, I go find new ways of doing things, professional development, whatever it is, I feel the same way about dance. I would give the same amount of time and it would be that, you know, sort of, it would be those two main things in my life.
DC: That was going to be my next question! So dancing is your passion, and you said your first love?
MA: Yeah, exactly, and if I get back to dance everybody else needs to hold on, because it’s about to be a whole new world if I can get back into dance. Yeah.
DC: So when you said that it’s your first love and one of your passions, is it something that you feel like you’re missing now with so many things you have going on?
MA: Okay. Sometimes, but I love all parts of my creativity and my creative self, so I can’t negate the fact that I love painting. And that I love writing and hosting and modeling and all those other things. I just know that some things I love more than others. It’s a stronger connection, it’s a stronger history, and with that I give more to it. If I were start back painting again, I probably wouldn’t give it as much as dance because it doesn’t need as much but it will still be like, oh I can still do graphic design stuff and I can still model and host things and I can just paint at home. Dancing is like, oh no. Oh no. We got a gym bag in the office, we got a gym bag in the back of the car. No, dance is like takeover. *laughs*
DC: I was wondering, you have so many interests, things you’re into that maybe each one’s for a season?
DC: There are times that come, “I really feel painting. I want to be in painting now.”
DC: And then you do that for how many ever months, and then, “Well I want to go dance,” and do that.
MA: Exactly. I think that’s why – that’s one of the ways I’ve been able to structure my life when it comes to my goals and everything that I want to achieve. When I got out of college I had a pie chart, and it had all these different sections. I decided this is what I want to do. And if I felt like I was doing it I’d pull that piece out a little bit, “Alright so I’m doing this, I’m doing this, I’m doing this, but these two things I really want to work on, I want to be better at.” At one point I realized I had every single piece of the pie. And I was like, how the hell did this happen? And I had a magazine that I was creative director of, I was doing New York Fashion Week stuff. I was hosting a podcast. These are all things I’m still currently doing, they’re in different seasons now. So at one point I had all these things. I reached all my goals. And I realized, goals for me aren’t, okay, have a magazine. I didn’t know what the capacity was. I had no idea. But it was to have an affiliation with a magazine. I’m a creative director of a high fashion magazine now. And I realized goals for me aren’t just, okay, be the creative director. Now that I am a creative director, what’s the next goal in that category? So it’s gain my subscribers, my readership up to a million. I’m at 800,000 plus right now. How can we make a million? Or how can I become a creative director at Vogue or at Cosmopolitan or somewhere else? You know what I mean? How can this springboard me and launch me to something else? This was the first round. This pie chart was the first round. There’s another ring around the pie chart of the next goal for that category. And that’s how I’m kind of living things. So things do come in seasons. They do. And I think that maybe dance… maybe that was that season. It’s still one of my favorite things to watch; I love going to shows. I love performances, whether it’s street art to McKinley Center. Everything in between I’m all for, you know. But dance and the arts in general they all have, you know, different seasons as to how I relate to each of them.
DC: You’re doing dance through school I guess, through your teen years –
MA: I was. Yeah, I was.
DC: So dance is your big thing. And you work with student government through high school. Then it’s time for you to go to college. You said you ended up at Virginia Tech. What was your thought process there? As far as choosing a college.
In Part 2, Midori talks about making the transition to college, how she got into modeling, and why, despite her accomplishments thus far, there is much more to come.
Keep up to date with Midori and all of her hijinx at her personal website. Upcoming events include:
- Birthday May 17th!
- DiDomenico Fashion Show for the Cannes Film Festival in Nice, France May 20th
- Model workshop in NYC May 27th/28th (date TBD)
- Hosting a modeling workshop in DC the first week in June (TBA)
- Miss Black USA Pageant (August) You can support Midori on her journey by donating or buying a tshirt
Photo Credit: Lori Hedrick Photos